You don't need to be reminded that you should quit sitting at your desk all day. But your workload doesn't always allow for frequent breaks to get up and move around. What can you do to offset the shoulder-hunching, hip-stiffening effects of being glued to your office chair?
If you can only manage to do two stretches at the end of a long workday, these are the ones Toronto yoga teacher Cynthia Funk recommends:
This is an easy upper-body stretch to counter your typical computer posture – head poking forward and shoulders rounding over your keyboard, says Funk, co-owner of The Yoga Sanctuary. You can even do it sitting down, but why not stand if you can? Stand with your feet, hip-distance apart. With your hands behind your back, interlace your fingers and draw your hands down toward the floor. You should immediately feel the stretch across your front. Simple, right?
"It's just really the most gentle, easiest, accessible way of opening up your chest," Funk says.
If you want a deeper variation, interlace your fingers with your hands behind your back again. Now bend your elbows and lift your arms up, lengthening them behind you. Bending at the elbows will allow you to open up further through the chest and armpits.
Hold the pose for a minimum of five to 10 breaths.
Standing forward bend
With your feet hip-distance apart, bend at your hips and gently fold forward. Hold onto your elbows, with left hand at right elbow and vice versa, and let your head hang heavily. You can bend your knees as much as you need. (This may mean having to bend a lot if you have tight hamstrings, and that's okay.)
There's no need to keep your back straight. Round forward and allow this stretch to lengthen the entire back of your body, from your Achilles tendon all the way along your spine, Funk says. Don't force the stretch. Relax. Just breathe and let your body adjust into the pose.
It may be too much for some people to hold this pose for long, but aim to stay here for about two minutes, or about 20 breaths, if you can. Your body will thank you.